Saturday, August 18, 2007

Salama Island

So here I am sitting at my desk with the evening calls to prayer ringing all around me - a sign that I’ve stayed at the office far too long. But that’s the price you pay when managing a blog, to go that extra mile and document your experiences and have something to look back to when my time here is long over.

I haven’t been active this month with my entries because I’ve had lots work to do. His Highness (the Aga Khan) is visiting Tanzania this week and major communications materials for all of AKF’s projects have to be finalized. That means I’ve been completing project profiles and making power point presentations highlighting the projects around the island, finicky work that at times is fun but for the most part is mind numbingly dull and painful. At least it’s something that is needed by AKF Tanzania and won’t, I hope, all be for nothing like past experience has shown. My plan is to finish much of these mini projects asap so I can make myself available for project monitoring and evaluation work or other tasks outside of the communications theme.

Generally speaking, life is pretty good after living here for one and a half months. I’ve fallen into synch with the Zanzibar lifestyle, or to be more precise my expat version of it, pretty well. I work the 9-5 in a beautiful heritage building that would look out onto the sea if the University of Dar es Salaam’s Marine Science Institute wasn’t blocking the view; I eat and drink at fine restaurants named after posh colonialists who “discovered” and tamed the wilds of this “dark continent” (these watering holes also provide stellar views of the Indian Ocean, especially of Zanzibar’s famous sun sets, my god!); I get chauffeured around town in a white SUV during the day to visit AKF project sites to collect information and interview beneficiaries; I sleep in a palace; I get someone to hand wash my clothes every other week, and her colleague serves me tea and biscuits every morning and afternoon at my desk, and her colleague brings me five daily newspaper around tea time so I know what’s going on around town. Life’s tough as an IDM-er, I know.

But it hasn’t all been selfishly pimping it up mzungu style. I’m also spending time helping my local friend Hemed launch his tour company, Salama Island Tours. "Salama" means "peace" in Swahili (and many other languages for that matter), and is also the name of his wife, who giggled ferociously when I suggested the idea at his home one evening. Personally I think it’s a great name, and so does Salama! Right now we’re creating a brochure and will begin work on a website shortly. Once those two items are complete, the communications side of things will be in place and Hemed will be ready to roll as an executive director and master co-ordinator. With an excursion list and packages already organized, the expressed interest of a few friends wanting to partner with the company, and Hemed's reputation for delivery quality tours, things look promising. Exciting times indeed. So if you have any advice for running a small tour company, please pass it along because Hemed and co. would be most appreciative. Also, if you ever want to come to Zanzibar, let us know and Hemed will make your stay unforgettable, but in the good way.

Anyways I must be off. It’s pitch black outside, my eyes are going cross-eyed from staring at this bloody screen for all day, and malaria-ridden mosquitoes are biting my feet. Ciao.

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